Recover and Rebound

Y’all know I took it deep on Thanksgiving. That was kind of my intention, and although I can’t eat nearly as much as I used to (I was a championship-level eater, people. A champion!), I consumed more than I usually do at one sitting… and I paid a small price.

Add one part “overstuffed feeling” to two parts “grain- and dairy-induced bloating,” then top that off with almost 10 days of missed workouts while wheezing under the jackboot of a head cold, and you get a recipe for a very unhappy version of me. Which is where I was on Saturday evening.

Here’s a thing you probably don’t know about me: I love working out – and I will take EVERY excuse to skip my workout. I need to talk myself into my workout clothes EVERY DAY. Even though I love it. It’s called resistance, and it’s a bitch.

I can bench press and kettlebell and sprint and overhead squat until sweat soaks my braids, and I’m bursting with joy. And I can know in my head and in my heart that I always feel better after a workout than I did before. But the resistance to getting started is there. Every damn day. Dave’s forever quoting the book The War of Art to me: “Resistance tells you not to try. Resistance gives you excuses. F*ck resistance.”

When I’m sick like I was last week, I’m in near-constant turmoil, caught between my rational knowledge that I’m not 100% and need rest to be strong – and my irrational fear that I’m not truly sick, that my real ailment is resistance and that I’m essentially a lazy sloth that would rather be lying in a lump on the couch, inhaling buttered popcorn while talking smack about the string of guests and commentators on daytime TV. (Daytime TV… it’s like the dried breadcrumb of entertainment: useless on its own, sucks up whatever’s around it, makes you feel bloated and sad.)

Speaking of bloated and sad… I was not feeling my CrossFit, dino-chow best after my virus and Thanksgiving adventures. I knew the only way back to HappyTown was clean eating and a few solid workouts, but man! just the idea of a met-con was wearing me out. Today, just three days later, I feel a billion times better. Here’s what I did – and maybe what you can try, too – to get noggin and body back in proper alignment:

Get dressed.
I shuffled around the house for almost a whole week in “squishy” pants, my broke-down leopard print slippers, and a two-sizes-too-big sweatshirt over a cami and a ripped, long-sleeved silk t-shirt. Pretty girl!

Monday morning, I pulled my skinny jeans out of the closet, took a deep breath for courage, and… zip! My jeans fit exactly the same. My phantom fat roll had been playing tricks on me, making me think I was a big girl again. Nonsense!

Should you find your favorite jeans a bit snug after holiday indulgence or seasonal ailments, give yourself a hug, put on something comfortable and attractive (not the squishy pants!), and place the offending jeans back in the closet for two weeks while you attend to the remaining items on the list below.

Return to routine. Now.
My friend Jesse Dayton wrote a rockabilly song called “Shoulda Coulda Woulda” about how a dude might be less of a dog if he had a do-over. I sing it to myself when I start to think things like, “Oh, man. I shouldn’t have had that second brownie.” Or, “F*ck! I should be able to do a kipping pullup by now.”

Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda.

To get better, we need to let go of the notions of “should” and “could,” and we don’t really get do-overs.

What we get is an opportunity to do. Now.

I spent about two hours on Sunday afternoon reclaming the kitchen from the T-Giving holiday. First, I gave away the remaining bacon bourbon brownies. I very seriously considered snarfing “just one more,” but had to get real with myself and recognize that the flavor of the brownie was not going to make me happy. Momentary pleasure could in no way replace the deep satisfaction of my real life. It was a rough few minutes… and then I moved on. I roasted turnips and beets. I cleaned kale and beet tops and swiss chard for sautéing. I grilled a pile of sausage and chicken and elk burgers. I even packed my lunch for Monday, essentially cleaning and organizing my “tools” so normal routine could resume.

But nutrition is only half of my normal equation, and workout resistance was at a truly terrifying high. By Sunday, even Dave was raising eyebrows at my willingness to lie around instead of work up a sweat. So Sunday night, I wrote my workout for Monday morning in my workout journal – in pen – and left the notebook open on the kitchen counter where I would see it. Then I started my pre-bed routine, set the alarm for 6:00 a.m., and made the promise to myself that even if I only got seven hours of sleep, I was going to the gym. Resistance needed to be beaten.

If you find yourself floundering, start with tactical actions. Make a grocery list and GO shopping. Cook something healthy. Do a short met-con or some yoga or handstand practice NOW. Move. Prepare. But do not allow yourself to meander in the land of excuses and regret. Do not “start tomorrow.” Start now.

Plan for next time.
My Thanksgiving experience got me thinking about Christmas and what I might do differently. It’s our family tradition to have lasagna on Christmas Eve, but I don’t want to spend Christmas day feeling lousy, so I’m thinking now about how to adapt my favorite Cook’s Illustrated lasagna recipe to work without noodles and cheese. I’m sure it’s going to take some failed experimentation, but the investment seems worth it. (I think I might see a sort of cauliflower “noodle” in my future, and if it works, I will totally share.)

I also know that part of my overall blechiness was lack of workout in the days leading up to and immediately following the T-Giving feast. Barring another visit from a stubborn virus, I’m going to maintain my usual training schedule through the holidays. I even made up a special Christmas workout to inject a little ho! ho! ho! into the heave-ho.

None of us is perfect, and we all define cheating, treats, being “on program,” and our expectations of ourselves differently. The trick, I think, is to continue to define and re-define ourselves and what works for us, so we can be the best versions of ourselves at any given moment.

Turn to experts.
When I’m feeling lost, I turn to “my people.” I write in my blog, I email my CrossFit mentors, and I read CrossFit and nutrition blogs that speak the language I need to hear. My dear friend Sara called it “filling the well,” and when times are tough, I drink long and hard at the well.

If you’ve been a lifelong athlete or have been CrossFitting for years, you might say to yourself, “I KNOW what I’m supposed to do, I just have to do it.” I call bullshit on that. I think everyone can benefit from community and hearing from the experts, even if it’s just confirming for you what you already know. I mean, you don’t stop watching National Lampoon’s Vacation just because you can recite the lines, “Sorry folks, park’s closed. Moose out front shoulda told ya.” in unison with John Candy, right?!

In advertising, there’s a rule of thumb that a consumer needs to see or hear a message seven times for it to be absorbed and 13 times to take action. If you need a course correction, immerse yourself in the community and messages you need to hear to get back on track. All of the blogs listed in my left-hand column are good places to start, and this “Derailed” post from Melissa Hartwig about how to bounce back from Life Stuff is particularly relevant to climbing out of a foxhole.

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  • anniebug says:

    A Paleo lasagna recipe would be the perfect xmas gift…to us all! Hang in there! Divide and conquer…and thank goodness for endorphins.

  • linda says:

    I made a good Lasagna last year for my daughter who is Crossfit/Paleo. I left out the noodles and layered sliced sauteed mushrooms in their place. Cut the amount of cheese in half and added more onion, celery and garlic to my usual red sauce. It was so fabulous, even my famous "Italian Family Lasagna" was jealous. Hers went in a flash.

  • Barbara says:

    Way to get back on that horse Mel. By the way…I have a spiralizer and wonder if you could use thinly sliced cucumbers in place of noodles? If you ever wish to borrow it…just say the word.


  • Erin Clare says:

    Fantastic post! And exactly what I need to read this morning. 3 days into the clean eating challenge and I'm feeling bloated. I had an EXTREMELY hard time convincing myself to get to the gym this morning. Resistance is a bitch, indeed!

    I'm now a bit happier. Eating a Paleo breakfast and reading your post. Way to kick the sofa beast back and start in with your regular. good nutrition + fitness = the real Mel. Even if you have a holiday of bacon bourbon brownies. 🙂

  • Heidi says:

    I'm definitly feeling unmotivated! Awesome, inspiring post! And, I did my first (modified and oh so HARD) crossfit workout yesterday! I am even more amazed and proud of you. YOU GO GIRL! YOU ARE INCREDIBLE!

  • steffy says:

    You took the feelings right out of my head – you do this so often!! That constant turmoil of rational vs irrational fear of resistance. And the part about fear of putting on my pants. I can't even explain the feeling you just gave me to know that I am not alone in having those thoughts.

    I can't tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog. It's like talking to one of the ladies on my bootcamp team.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Lasagna lovers, I will definitely share whatever I cook up (ahem). I love the idea of a mushroom layer!

    Erin, I'm sorry I missed the cleans with you this morning! Congratulations on day 3 of taking care of yourself. Hang on through the evil bloat — you know it gets better!

    Heidi! Hooray for your first CrossFit workout. That's awesome. What did you do? You have to share so I can visualize it!

    Steffy, thank YOU. It's good to know y'all can relate to my rantings. Isn't it crazy how a pair of pants can control our self-worth?! You put those pants in their place, girl!

  • Kate says:

    I know I am reading this 10 months later, but this is exactly what I needed to read. I fell off the wagon after vacation and returning to the work/home routine. Nice to hear the pep talk from someone else other than myself. Thanks for keeping this in the archives.